This week’s portion begins with the words, “Now Jacob dwelt in the land where his father was a stranger.” In other words, “Jacob settled down.” We understand this verse to mean that Jacob attempted to become comfortable in his surroundings. Unfortunately, when the attempt is made to “settle down,” it often leads to “settling for less.” Rashi, in his commentary writes of this verse, “When the righteous wish to live at ease, the Holy one, blessed be He, says to them: ‘Are not the righteous satisfied with what is stored up for them in the world to come that they wish to live at ease in this world too!’” The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that “Peace” in this World is a lie compared to the “Peace” of the World to Come. Peter in 1 Peter 3 quotes King David, when he writes, “seek peace and pursue it.” However, there is a difference between seeking tranquil peace for oneself as compared to seeking harmonious peace for all of humanity. Yeshua, our master said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” What is it about a peacemaker that makes this type of person worthy to be called a “son/child of God?” Probably one of the most well known Hebrew words is the word “Shalom” which is generally translated as “peace.” However, it also can mean “completeness/ wholeness.” A worthy peacemaker is one who brings wholeness to the world around him. It is not a person set of finding peace “within himself.” Rather, it is a person who brings peace from “within himself” to the world. Author Xus Casal writes “can a righteous person rest while the rest of the World needs to be repaired? Certainly Not! …God brought us here, not only to complain about how bad the things are, but to try to fix them.” Jacob, by “settling/making-himself-comfortable” was not fulfilling his role in the redemption process. He was taking it easy, while his role remained unfulfilled. Jacob knew that from his offspring would come a redeemer for the world, but instead of preparing his sons for a smooth transition—as soon as he settled down—we read of family jealousy, problems, and issues, which should have been “settled, instead of “settling” down. Joseph was destined to become “Savior” of the known world.
Joseph and his brothers – illustration by sweet media
Joseph’s dreams, his status in the family, his intellect, and his charisma, all pointed to a bright future. However, because family issues were not dealt with properly; instead of a peaceful transition of power, Joseph’s jealous brothers sold him into slavery. Yet, God’s plan was still in effect.
In this portion, the life of Joseph is an almost perfect depiction of Yeshua at His first coming. In fact, if we understand the story of Joseph, we understand the mission of Yeshua, which he came to accomplish at His first coming. In Judaism, according to the Sages understanding of the scripture, there are two different roles of the Messiah. We read of one Messiah, who comes as a suffering servant. In Rabbinic writings this Messiah is referred to as “Mashiach Ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph.” The other Messianic figure comes as a conquering King. This Messiah is referred to as “Mashiach ben David—Messiah son of David.” The specific missions of these two Messiahs cannot be reconciled, in the sense that, the task of each are explicit in their roles; however these two missions and roles can be fulfilled by the same person at different times. As Rabbi Ben Burton writes, “When people speak of the Messiah, they are [usually] referencing Mashiach ben David, whose mission is to gather the exiles of Israel, rebuild the Temple and establish world peace. The mission of Mashiach ben Yosef is vastly different. His purpose and end goal is the same, but he dies in the process.” So what was the mission of “Messiah son of Joseph?” Rabbi Daniel Krentzman (an Orthodox Rabbi) sums up the role of “Messiah son of Joseph” by writing “…the need for the mission of Mashiach ben Yosef came about as result of the sin of Adam. In theory, had Adam not sinned and brought about tremendous spiritual damage to himself and the world, there would not have been a need for the tikun olam (world rectification) efforts of Mashiach ben Yosef, in every subsequent generation. Mashiach ben Yosef thus comes to rectify that damage and return mankind to the state of Adam before the sin.” I could not sum up the mission of Yeshua our Messiah better. The purpose of  “Messiah son of Joseph” according to this Orthodox Jewish Rabbi was to rectify the damage caused by Adam’s wrongdoing and bring humanity back to the state of pre-sin perfection. This was the message of Rav Shaul (the Apostle Paul) in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 when he wrote, “It is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit… Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Yeshua, the “Son of Man = Adam” came the first time to repair the spiritual damage caused by “Adam Harishon—The First Adam.” The “Messiah son of Joseph” receives his title from the story of Joseph—therefore, it follows that the story of “Messiah son of Joseph” should parallel the story of Joseph, right? For starters, Yeshua our Messiah was, as it is written in Luke 3, “…the son of Joseph.”  The revelation of Yeshua, the “Messiah son of Joseph” was literally “…the son of Joseph.” If we go back to this week’s portion, we read that:Joseph was the choice son of his father, “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children.” We know that Yeshua is God’s “beloved Son, in whom [He is] well pleased.”Joseph was sold by his brothers (at the suggestion of Judah) as it is written; “Judah said to his brothers, ‘…Come and let us sell him to the Ishmaelites’ …and [they] sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.”       Yeshua was sold by one of His “brother’s” (His disciple Judas/Judah) as it says “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.” Joseph was taken into exile, as it says, “And they (the Ishmaelites) took Joseph to Egypt.” Yeshua also went into exile, as it was written by the Prophet Isaiah, “He [was] despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief…He was numbered with the transgressors.”We don’t learn until later that the rejection of Joseph by his brothers was the saving of the entire known world from famine. Rav Shaul writes in Romans 11 that, “[Israel] by their wrongdoing, salvation has come to the Gentiles.” He then continues a few verses later by saying, “their rejection proves to be the reconciliation of the world.” The children of Israel rejected Joseph, and later “Messiah son of Joseph” leading to–in both cases–life for the nations. The rejection of Joseph saved the nations of the world from physical starvation. The rejection of Yeshua saved the nations “[from] famine [in the world], not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)
In Isaiah 9 it says, “In Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” The word “Galilee” in Hebrew can be translated to “circuit/district.” This verse is saying, “In the path of the Gentiles = the people who walk in darkness and dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon these people a light has shined.” The words “Shadow of Death” (same words from Psalm 23) can be equated to the “Exile.” Both Joseph and “Messiah son of Joseph” were sent into exile, into the land of the Shadow of Death, where they became bright shining lights, exposing and expelling the darkness. In Hebrew the words “Shadow of Death” is the word “Tzalmavet.” In Gematria this word is equal to the number 566. What else is equal to 566 in gematria? The phrase, “Mashiach ben Yosef—Messiah son of Joseph.” Yeshua, “Messiah son of Joseph,” is with us even in the “Shadow of death.” He met us in our exile and is the bright light in the darkness, the one “who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light.” It is interesting that these Torah portions about Joseph’s life always coincide with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. This festival is known in English as either “The Festival of Light” or “The Festival of Dedication.” Why? Because as we literally enter into the darkest parts of the year, when the days are short and the nights are long, we must dedicate ourselves to be lights in a world increasingly walking in the “Shadow of Death.” Now is not the time to “settle” down like Jacob did, as we talked about at the beginning of this observation. Now is the time to burn bright for God, “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Yeshua, our Master, encouraged his followers, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life…” He also said, “You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” I want to finish with an exhortation from Rav Shaul from Romans 13 which I find to be very fitting for this time. “Do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”

Grace and peace from God’s bondservant,
Shabbat Shalom,
Samuel

5,387 thoughts on “Parsha Vayeshev Genesis 37:1-40:23

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